KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - An air strike by Western forces killed 21 civilians, including women and children, in Afghanistan, a provincial governor said on Wednesday, the latest in a string of civilian casualties that has riled Afghans.
The incident, which brings to nearly 90 the number of civilian deaths blamed by Afghan officials on Western troops in the past two weeks, comes as President Hamid Karzai faces rising pressure to halt the bloodshed and find a way to start peace talks with Taliban insurgents.
Saying your sorry and dishing out a few thousand dollars to family members is not enough: "The U.S. commander for eastern Afghanistan, Army Colonel John Nicholson, apologized on Tuesday for the killing of 19 civilians by U.S. troops just over a month ago."
"I stand before you today, deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry that Americans have killed and wounded innocent Afghan people," US army spokesman Col John Nicholson told reporters in Washington by video conference from Afghanistan.
"The deaths and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hands of Americans is a stain on our honour and on the memory of the many Americans who have died defending Afghanistan and the Afghan people.
The US military's so-called "honour" was stained a long time ago and feeling ashamed does nothing to bring back those who died needlessly. As nice as it is that he is actually expressing some humanity and responsibility, the thousands of Afghanis who protested these civilian killings would appreciate some assurances that these types of miscalculations will not happen again.
This latest incident shows that they have yet to learn from their mistakes and, in fact, the military again immediately denied reports of dead civilians and claimed they were all members of the Taliban - women and children included.
The bloodshed has returned to levels not seen since the fall of the Taleban in 2001, and a quarter of more than 4,000 people killed last year were believed to have been civilians.
Correspondents say fewer civilians are killed by international forces than in suicide and other attacks by the Taleban.
Well, that's comforting, isn't it? Right.
The way to win those "hearts and minds" is to start by making damn sure you're not killing innocent people. The survivors tend to have very long memories.